Quietly incisive.

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THE NEW NEIGHBOR

Two fugitives, decades apart in age, come to terms with their deepest regrets in Stewart’s meditative fifth novel (The History of Us, 2013, etc.).

High on a mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee, in what is known as the Domain, two women have moved into small cottages overlooking a pond. Each has come seeking isolation and is at first annoyed to notice she's not the only pondside occupant. Margaret, 90, intends to live out her days with only her World War II scrapbook, her parents’ furniture, and her memories as companions. Jennifer, accompanied by her small son, Milo, rents the cabin across the pond from Margaret. Alternating between the first-person narration of Margaret and Jennifer’s third-person voice, Stewart establishes that each woman harbors a secret: each feels responsible for the death of her soul mate. In Margaret’s case, this is Kay, a fellow nurse with whom she served as Allied forces slogged across Western Europe after D-Day. Jennifer has left her small town and gone into a form of hiding after the death of her husband, Tommy, the love of her life but a hopeless drunk. (The exact nature of Jennifer’s guilt about Tommy is withheld until roughly halfway through the book.) Gradually, the grip of the past loosens as each woman reaches out with trepidation toward the world of the present. Though deficient in self-understanding, Jennifer, a massage therapist, is able to instantly diagnose the emotional states locked in the muscles of her clients, including Margaret. Margaret enlists Jennifer to help her record her memories of World War II and of Kay. Jennifer reluctantly enrolls Milo in preschool and is drawn into a small group of parents, including Megan and Sebastian, whose conflicted but functional marriage stands in grim contrast to Jennifer’s own. The arrival, late in the novel, of Zoe, Jennifer’s estranged teenage daughter, offers the possibility of a neat, sentimental resolution, which Stewart wisely avoids. Stewart’s prose is remarkable for its well-shaped sentences and nonshowy but sharp observations.

Quietly incisive.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0351-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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